In 2012, on a tiny island off Madagascar, a group of scientists led by Frank Glaw, a veteran herpetologist and curator at the Museum of Natural History in Munich, discovered an amazingly small Leaf Chameleon – that can fit on your finger. With a length of hardly 30 mm (1.1 in) from nose to tail, a height of merely half an inch (16 mm), tiny enough to stand with all of its 4 feet on the head of a match – the Brookesia Micra is regarded as the smallest Chameleon known to man, and definitely one of the smallest Reptiles in the world.
When compared to the average Chameleon, whose length ranges between 17-25 cm (7-10 in), and to the longest chameleon in the World, the Parson’s Chameleon, which grows up to 70 cm (28 in) – the Brookesia Micra is with no doubt a remarkable finding. These tiny Leaf Chameleons typically spend their day in leaf litter, while at night they climb up into tree branches, to sleep.
With an impressive expeditions track-record of 8-years into the Madagascan forests, Glaw and his colleagues have already labelled other members of this Chameleon species as “Brookesia”. This latest discovery was called Brookesia Micra because of its miniature size, using a derivation of the latin form of the Greek word ‘Mikros”.
The extreme small size of the Brookesia Micra might be explained by a process called ‘Insular Dwarfism”. This natural process describes the situation of species of large sizes whose population is limited to a small environment, and how it brings about the shrinkage in size of these animals over a very long period of time. One example for this natural process are the dinosaurs.
This bewildering Leaf Chameleon looks so tiny, as if you might crush it accidentally just by moving your fingers. However, the greatest threat to its survival comes in fact from bigger human interference in nature, specifically illegal logging and deforestation in Madagascar. These beautiful chameleon species are extremely threatened, and we all need to do our share to stop illegal logging and deforestation, even by twitting this post and sharing it on facebook!